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Damian Willemse and the end of an era.

The one light shining bright after Saturday is that of Damian Willemse. He was the Boks saving grace in the 80th minute as he showed his BMT to slot the kick that would see the Boks down Wales 32 - 29 at Loftus. No easy feat to pull off in front of 51 746 rugby mad fans, all hyped up on brandy. Was this the moment Damian Willemse came into his own in the Bok selection framework?

Frans Steyn, since 2006 has provided the Springboks with immeasurable talent. He is the most versatile player ever to have represented the Green & Gold and has featured at 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 when called upon. Thrust into the limelight in 2007 when injury struck Jean De Villiers in the World Cup, Frans was set to become one of the all time Springbok greats.

In the later years of his career, Steyn's versatility made him a must have in any Springbok team, and although he may have been out in the wilderness for a while, he was always destined to return. It was one of the first orders of business when Rassie took the reigns and boy oh boy did it pay dividends. With Steyn in the Bok squad, the 'Bomb Squad' idea was allowed to materialise and we have seen what a huge impact that has had on our game.

Steyn's ability to cover so many positions, frees up the coaches to select an additional forward on the bench, almost an entirely fresh pack in fact. Without this, you would never get away with a 6-2 split and the bomb squad we know and love may never have materialised and gained infamy at the World Cup. Steyn is one of only two South Africans to have two World Cup medals and he will go down as one of SA Rugby's greatest ever.

With Steyn having reached the tail end of his career, the search was on for a suitable replacement and the role of understudy was handed to Damian Willemse. Willemse is a talented player who can cover flyhalf, center and fullback and at a push even wing. He has had all the talent there brewing for a while and he would have benefited greatly from his exposure to the Bok environment and also the chance to train alongside Frans.

2022 however has proven the year for Damian to step-up and he has done just that. He had a fantastic campaign for the Stormers in the URC primarily as a 12, even earning man of the match in the semi-final, a game he played with an injury. He is a player who is proving he can make the step up and provide the Boks with exactly what they need, when they need it.

On Saturday, sitting in the stands at Loftus, watching Willemse take command of the role he has been given, seamlessly transitioning from 15 to 10 it dawned on me... this may be an end of an era. Willemse's performance as a utility came off perfectly and with age on his side, the Bok coaches will likely rely heavily on him going forward. This could inevitably mean that Frans Steyn's man of the match performance against Wales last year, was the last time we will have seen that legend take to the field.

Changing of the guard is inevitable, and it is rare that one finds such a similar player to fulfil that role, but I am confident that in Damian, we have the well rounded player we need.

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1 Comment

Gregory Fendt
Gregory Fendt
Jul 08, 2022

It is beyond me to understand the hype around a single kick .... so it may have won the game but the player was not glorious throughout the game and certainly did not set the game alight from full back!

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